Monday, April 6, 2015 | By: Drotuno

Man Behind the Mask Chapter 13 & Pics

Chapter 13 – The Pretender
What if I say I'm not like the others?
What if I say I'm not just another one of your plays?
You're the pretender
What if I say I will never surrender?

In time or so I'm told
I'm just another soul for sale... oh, well
The page is out of print
We are not permanent
We're temporary, temporary
Same old story

I'm the voice inside your head
You refuse to hear
I'm the face that you have to face
Mirrored in your stare
I'm what's left, I'm what's right
I'm the enemy
I'm the hand that will take you down
Bring you to your knees
“The Pretender” – Foo Fighters
“It’s too damned early for this shit,” Tori complained, sipping the cup of coffee I’d just handed her. “Don’t they know bartenders are night people?” Her scowl was more funny than grumpy.
Smirking, I took a stool next to hers at the bar. We’d just arrived inside Charlie’s, but Edward, my brother, the rest of the band, and all the film crew had started way before the sun had even come up.
I hid my smile behind my mug at the memories of Edward’s very talented yet fumbling hands just before he’d left me alone in his bed. He’d promised me more touches, more kisses, and more whatever I damn well asked for after the show was over. He also apologized – with whispered words and kisses between my legs that had left me sweaty and shaky – for what the day was about to bring. He’d pried himself out of bed to meet everyone for one more practice, leaving me a boneless pile of goo. He’d even reset his alarm to let me get a few hours of sleep before I needed to come downstairs to the bar.
As a crew set up tables and chairs in front of the stage, adjusted lighting, set up cameras, and added the final touches to the stage, walls, and floors, the boys were suffering through makeup and wardrobe. Alice was a force with her choices for them, and most of the boys just nodded and took what she handed them with resigned looks on their faces. Once they were dressed, a tall, thin man named Ivan started on makeup and hair. Again, the boys didn’t seem to bat an eye at it.
The director, Mr. Milton, wanted to interview the band first, get that on film before the show, and then everything would be edited together later. The “audience” – which was made up of a few fans who had won tickets from radio stations, some local members of media, and a few record label people – wasn’t due to arrive for another few hours, not to mention the extras and the additional servers. Security had been in place since the night before, keeping the paparazzi and fans at bay outside. Tori, Garrett, and I would merely run the bar in the background; our faces wouldn’t even be seen on camera.
An older man with longer hair worked on the stage, making sure the boys’ instruments were all in the right places. Marcus, Radiant Eclipse’s tour manager, moved with a strange grace for a man who had to be pushing sixty. My father’s old, bare stage was no longer recognizable. Where my brother’s drum kit used to sit alone now looked like something out of…well, a rock video. Stacks of amps framed either side of the small stage. Guitars sat gleaming and beautiful on their stands, while wires and chords snaked along the sides and the front like vines that were taking over a jungle. An electrician tested different colored lights and smoke effects. Mike’s drum kit had grown bigger – impressively so, actually; I’d been shocked that my mother and Phil had offered that to my brother – and the set had been shifted just off to the left to make room for a beautiful, black baby grand piano and Alec’s keyboards.
The production crew had enhanced the atmosphere of my father’s place, giving it a feel of an old jazz/blues club. They’d added bigger pictures of Chainsaw Charlie and some of the famous people he’d worked with over the years. I’d brought my father’s gold and platinum albums out of my apartment to allow them to be displayed for the shoot, but I was going to let them stay once it was all over. They’d also moved Dad’s Fender from behind the bar to a much more prominent spot just off stage.
Ivan tsked grumpily at Edward, saying, “I don’t know why I try with this hair! What the hell did you do to it this morning?!”
Snorting softly to myself, I took another sip of coffee, but Edward heard me and grinned my way.
“He’s ridiculously in love with you, Bella,” Tori whispered with a soft laugh.
Sighing deeply, I shrugged a shoulder, but the truth came out anyway. “I know.”
She laid her head on my shoulder. “Good. You deserve it. He’s good for you. I like that he makes you swoony.”
I smiled at that, but she’d said it before. Tori, despite her exuberant attitude and wild personality, was a true romantic deep down. Of course, she also thought Edward sent dirty texts to me all damn day…which he did occasionally, but my employee didn’t need to know that.
I wanted to savor the silly-sweet, teasing grin on Edward’s face as Ivan tried his best to tame the hair that I personally had wrecked that morning. I wanted to kiss the wrinkle that scrunched up his nose, and even more… The blush that bloomed across his cheeks made me absolutely ravenous for him. I wanted to tuck all that away into my heart for the rest of the day, because I knew what he was about to face, what would happen to that adorable side of him. In just a few hours, the filming of the show, the side story line, and the interaction with the fans and extras would begin, and my sweet, silly Edward would fade into the background to allow Masen to command the stage, the cameras, and the women who loved him.
He’d also come face to face with Heidi. And he’d do it with a cold, calculated attitude. I knew it was coming; we’d discussed it at length, but I was still bracing for it.
In fact, a part of it had already started with the director. Mr. Milton stepped off the stage, coming to stand in front of the guys, explaining how he wanted the interviews to go – a few questions for the entire band and a handful for each member. Edward’s face was serious and stoic, almost conceited as he answered his questions. As they got to work, Rose took Mike off to the side to coach him, and my baby brother looked so nervous and young at what he was about to do.
There was a knock at the door, and Emmett shifted enough to open it. In stepped Tanya and Kate, the former carrying a grocery bag.
They assessed the bar with their usual looks of humor and judgment as they walked to me.
“Bella,” Tanya greeted with a wry smile, holding up the bag. “I brought you something. C’mere, I’ll show you. You’ll need it for later. I guarantee it.”
“’Kay,” I said, getting up to follow her behind my bar.
She set the bag down on the bar top, gazing around the room again. “Listen, I realize that part of that director’s script calls for a few shots of the guys drinking and partying it up. Edward won’t drink and work. He just won’t. He’ll have a few beers after it’s all over, but he likes to keep his voice in good condition and his head straight. The other guys may have a shot or two, but not our boy, okay?”
“Okay,” I said, nodding her way. I smiled at the two bottles of Jack Daniels she pulled out of the bag. “Tea?” I asked, unscrewing the cap and taking a sniff. The scent of honey was delicious and thick.
“Edward told you?”
“Yeah.” I nodded, smiling up at her.
She shot me a wink. “Good. You’ll be in charge of Edward’s drinks, then. Hell, you could simply hand him this bottle, and he’ll chug it like a college kid on spring break.”
Chuckling, I nodded, stashing the bottles where I could grab them later. When I glanced back at her face, I saw her worried expression.
“How’s he…” she started, but stopped. “Damn, Bella… Is he okay?”
I sighed, my eyes darting around the room to find Edward. He was sitting on the edge of the stage next to Jasper as Alec did his private interview. They had acoustic guitars in their hands, playing softly together. Alice had dressed them both in black jeans and their usual Docs, but Jasper was wearing a hooded long-sleeved shirt, and Edward had on a black T-shirt and a leather vest. It wasn’t obvious that they had makeup on, but I was pretty sure it was to keep down the shine from all the lights.
“He’s umm…” I met her gaze. “He’ll be okay, but don’t expect him to be pleasant to Heidi.”
“Yeah, well…I wasn’t exactly gonna bow down to that bitch when she gets here, either,” she muttered, rolling her eyes.
“No, I don’t think you understand. He’s instructed Emmett and the rest of security to keep her away from him until absolutely necessary. She’s not allowed to talk to him, approach him, or touch him unless it’s called for during a shot. And even that’s iffy with the director,” I explained. “Though, that goes for all the participants in the audience.” I shrugged a shoulder.
Kate’s giggle was infectious, especially when she said, “Oh, this is gonna rock!”
Tanya smiled at that and then turned to me. “And you? You okay with it?”
“He has a job to do, not that Aro makes it easy,” I told her, frowning a little. “I know how Edward feels about Heidi. I know anything he does today will be for the Radiant Eclipse fans, simply because they’re very important to him.”
“They are,” Tanya said, dragging it out a little. “But Bella, you are, too. You know that, right? Tell me he’s told you…”
Grinning, I nodded. “He has. Repeatedly.”
“That’s my boy,” Kate praised, nodding once and grinning Edward’s way when he shot a raised eyebrow our way.
Tanya and Kate joined Tori and me at the bar with our coffee. We chatted about different things as the guys would trade out for their small interviews. The last questions asked were to the whole band as they sat on the stage in a semi-circle, using stools from the bar. They all looked relaxed and handsome, teasing and laughing as they discussed the new album, the upcoming concert, their influences concerning certain songs, and the addition of a new drummer.
It was stop-and-start and completely boring. The guys barely got a break when the interviews were done, because they were needed for photographs, both individual and group shots, not to mention a few members of the media were let in.
Slowly, all the necessary people started to show – the extra servers who would be taking the drinks to the tables, the extra members of security, and some of the extras for the audience. The sound of a crowd building outside also told me that the fans were ready and lined up to get in.
Garrett, Tori, and I were getting last-minute instructions from the director’s assistant, Gerry, when Emmett opened the doors to chaos and screaming.
“Ah, fuck…” Tori sighed deeply. “She’s here.”
I leaned against the bar, taking in Edward’s ex. She was stunning, with light-brown hair, sunglasses, and a fluffy white fur coat. All eyes were on her, which was understandable, considering she walked into the room like she owned it. Her glasses came off, and her bright-blue eyes assessed her surroundings with barely a glimmer of emotion over her face. One of her assistants took her coat, draping it over the back of a stool.
“Oh, damn…what died to keep her warm?” Kate asked, wearing a grimace on her face.
“A yeti?” Tanya guessed sarcastically, shrugging her shoulder when even Gerry laughed softly. “What? She’d probably only settle for something that rare. Or a shit-ton of baby bunnies, just because she’s evil…”
“All extras need to stay along the side over there,” Emmett instructed, pointing to a row of chairs.
“Emmett…” Heidi started.
“You, too,” he stated so firmly that she laughed at him.
“I just wanted to see Masen…”
“You’ll see him when it’s called for, Heidi, and no sooner. There is a list of instructions on your seats. But we’ll go over them anyway. There will be no talking to the members of the band, nor will you touch them. Do not hand them anything, and there will be no cell phones or any other devices allowed on your person while shooting. You’ll stay in your designated places at all times, and if you are required to interact with the band, you will do exactly as you’re told.”
“These don’t apply to me, Emmett!” Heidi argued.
“Yes, in fact, they do,” he stated, stepping closer to her. “If you’d taken the time to read the contract you signed, you’d understand that. If you can’t abide by these rules, then security will escort you out. Before the director starts, are there any questions?”
My eyebrows shot up at that, because that was news to me, but Rose sidled up next to me. “I may have altered the extras’ contract just a bit,” she murmured in my ear. She smirked, shooting me a wink. “Aro may have control over the director, but he doesn’t have control over anything seen as a security threat. That’s actually Emmett’s call, and even Aro knows that. Wonderful thing, loopholes.”
Tanya’s laugh was loud, and she covered it up with her hand. “Oh, my dear cousin… You weren’t kidding when you said you’d figure something out. You know…she’s gonna blow when she finally sees him and can’t talk to him.”
“Mmhm,” Rose hummed, nodding as she worked on her phone for a moment. “I’m counting on it. No one fucks with my family. I don’t care what movie they’re in. And I sure as fuck don’t care what Aro says… Those boys are my priority.”
Mr. Milton stepped to the center of the room. “Okay, everyone listen up! We’re going to shoot the story line shots in just a few minutes. I suggest if you need a drink or the bathroom, you get it done now. That includes the band, as well,” he called toward the stage.
The guys stepped around the instruments on the stage, hopping down to the floor. All the actresses had removed their coats, leaving them like fans at a concert – short skirts or skin-tight jeans, sexy shirts, and high heels. When Heidi started toward Edward, three security men stepped into her path, pointing for her to take a seat.
My gaze shot to Edward, and I took a deep breath and let it out.
Masen had officially stepped into the room.
He was pissed and cold, his jaw rolling as he gritted his teeth, but he was no less beautiful. He walked – or rather stalked – into the main floor of the bar. He ignored the whispers coming from the extras, even more the scowl Heidi was shooting his way as he stepped up to Mr. Milton. His strong, colorful arms were crossed over his chest as he glared down at the man who was at least five inches shorter than Edward was. The conversation was quiet but intense as they both shot looks to Heidi, who was fighting to see him around the large frame of a security guard.
“No!” Edward suddenly snapped, staring down Milton, but his finger pointed toward the extras who were still star-struck over the band, though Heidi had come to a standstill. “You’ll get the shots you need now at the bar. I don’t wanna still be fuckin’ around with this bullshit five minutes before we’re supposed to be on the damn stage. You want a party, then we’ll shoot it now. Get it done. This part is not my priority, Milton; the show is.”
Milton cowered from Edward, nodding a bit, and he turned toward the bar, where Gerry was waiting for the next instruction. “Get the cameras behind the bar. I want the shots over the bartenders, facing the boys. I want one camera focused from the side, wandering through the crowd.” He turned to the extras, telling them that they were going to push toward the guys and the bar while music played in the background.
Emmett and his team formed a line, making sure no cell phones or cameras made it by them on the extras. What had been a stop-and-start all morning instantly became hustle and bustle. Makeup was touched up, music was turned on, and Garrett, Tori, and I got into place while Milton put the boys where he wanted them, not that Edward listened, because he walked straight to the bar.
What made me smirk his way was that he took his usual barstool – the one he’d been using since the first night he stumbled into my bar – but his eyes weren’t on me; they were on Gerry. “Hey, dude?” he called, pointing from Garrett, to Tori, and then me. “Their faces don’t go on film. Am I clear? This is their real jobs, their real lives, and I won’t have their faces plastered all over hell and back.”
I suppressed a groan at how sexy that was, that sudden fierce protection that Edward let loose occasionally. Something akin to respect finally graced Garrett’s face as he gazed from Edward to Gerry.
The latter finally nodded, saying, “Yeah, Masen, we’d already—”
Edward held up his hand. “Yeah, well…just fucking making sure.”
He still hadn’t looked at me, but I understood it. My Edward – not Masen – wore his emotions, his heart, and his desire on his sleeve. One look and he’d have melted a little, but I wanted his attention quickly, simply because Heidi was walking his way.
Reaching beneath the bar, I grabbed one of the bottles of Jack Daniels Tanya had given me and set it down in front of him with a heavy thump.
“It’s all just bullshit, Edward,” I muttered for only him to hear me, reminding him of our very first conversation inside this bar, and his head spun from watching everyone getting into place to face me.
There he was, and I smiled a little his way when the green in his eyes warmed to the loving gaze I knew so well. The chatter was loud around us, but they all seemed to fade away when he set his elbows on the bar top when I did the same.
Tilting my head at him, I smirked with a shake to my head. “You know that whole selfish thing we talked about?”
His grin was a quick yet beautiful flash, and it stayed halfway up his face in a deviant and deadly way. “Yes, angel,” he whispered back.
“Well,” I huffed dramatically, licking my lips, and I chuckled when his eyes followed the movement. “Well, if you…Mr. Cullen…can get through this next…oh, ten minutes of pure, unadulterated hell…I promise you can be as selfish as you want after the show.” I raised an eyebrow at him when I pushed his bottle of tea his way. “Deal?”
His long fingers wrapped slowly, sexily around the bottle, but they purposefully brushed over mine, tracing with a light touch, but I felt them everywhere.
“I love you,” he said back with a slight wrinkle to his brow. “And that’s a deal, beautiful.” He shot me a wink, reaching up to tap under my chin with his fingers. “But I’m not sure you know what you’re getting yourself into, Bella.” He grinned briefly at my soft laugh and shoulder shrug.
“Love you, too. And…I’m well aware of what you’re capable of, Edward.”
The heat that bloomed across his cheeks as he grinned down at the bar, despite the makeup that dusted over his pretty skin, was so fucking sexy, I almost leaned in to kiss him when he met my eyes again. However, Jasper, Jake, and Mike stepped up on either side of Edward, breaking our trance as they were put into specific places.
I glanced behind him where Heidi was walking to him. “Watch your back…” I pushed off the bar, pointing to the bottle. “And you’re to see me for your drinks, okay?”
“Okay,” he sighed, and he shot a gaze to Jasper before turning around to face Heidi. She was reaching up to tap his shoulder, and he caught her by the wrist before she could. “Don’t touch me.”
I flinched at the cold, harsh tone, but she merely smiled up at him. Emmett started for her, but Edward shook his head. He let Heidi’s wrist go, leaning back against the bar.
“Heidi,” he greeted. “Don’t know why you’d slum it, coming to this shoot, but how’s Peter?” He gasped dramatically and added, “Or better yet… How’s James?”
Jasper and Jacob chuckled, which seemed to piss her off. “Masen, can we talk after the show?”
“No,” he told her, shaking his head. “There’s nothing to talk about, but I’m sure you remember how to get messages to me through Rose.” Edward jerked his chin toward a stone-faced Rosalie, who was standing out of the way alongside Alice, Tanya, and Kate – all of whom were wearing scowls on their faces. “I’ll be busy after the show, and I have nothing to say to you, Heidi. Trust me, you did me a favor.”
That last sentence hit home with her, but instead of looking contrite, she jutted her chin out in childlike stubbornness. Where someone would usually apologize, try to explain, Heidi didn’t. From what I could see, apologies were beneath her. However, she wanted him…again. It was all over her very pretty, very perfect face as she deliberately eyed him from head to toe. Her expression seemed calculating, like she was running through a list of shit to say to get his attention, to melt his fierce gaze. She murmured a few things I couldn’t quite catch, but he merely waved her away and shook his head, and from behind him, I could see his tension in his strong, broad shoulders.
A sharp clap of hands caught everyone’s attention, and we all looked to Milton. He pointed to individual extras, allotting them to a member of the band. “You, you, and you…you’ll be dancing around Jacob. You three…Alec and Jasper. You and you…you’ll be with Masen. Heidi, you’ll be with Mike, along with the girl over there.”
Heidi scoffed. “No, I was brought in—”
“You were brought in as a favor to Aro. He did not say to which capacity I could use you, so get your spoiled ass in gear, or I’ll use you as a background dancer. Am I clear?” Milton snapped back. “Go…other side.” He pointed around Edward to my brother, who looked nervous. Milton turned to face Edward, speaking softly. “Aro’s an asshole for bringing her here, but I was bound by contract. My apologies, son.” He reached into his pocket, pulling out a coin and holding it up. “Over a year sober,” he stated proudly, nodding once. “Heard what the girl did to you when you went into Serenity – good place, by the way. I can’t imagine…”
We were all sort of in shock for a second, but Edward’s eyes glanced from the coin to Milton’s face.
“Actually, man…it was truly for the best.” Edward patted the Milton’s shoulder, but he shot a glance and a wink to me. “The fucking best thing.”
Milton smirked but then nodded. “Good for you, kid.” He spun on his heel. “Okay…action!”
Something about Milton taking over, about him knowing exactly what was going on, made for a much more relaxed environment, despite Heidi’s pouting. When the camera landed on her, she did her job by dancing around my brother, but she was not happy.
The guys put on an act of drinking, dancing, and allowing the women to touch them, and it was actually pretty damn funny. Edward made a show of tilting back the whiskey bottle, chugging hard, only to slam the empty thing down in front of me. I reached for the second bottle, holding it out to him. The actresses assigned to him were still a little awestruck over him, but he was as professional as he could be. He took the second bottle, grabbing my hand gently in order to pull me in to kiss my cheek.
“Fuck, angel…when this is over… I want your touch to erase all this bullshit.”
Grinning, I shoved him playfully back into the arms of the girls, and he grinned salaciously my way before putting the bottle to his lips, his eyes on mine as he completely ignored the hands on his chest, face, neck and hair.
“And cut!” Milton called, and the music stopped while everyone came to a halt. “Excellent job! I think we have all we need.” He pointed to Edward and then me, stepping closer. “You two… Amazing chemistry! You know, we could—”
“No, man,” Edward said with a chuckle and a slow shake of his head. “Let’s keep her out of this.”
“Just saying, Masen. She’s got a gorgeous face on camera.”
“Oh, I’m sure,” Edward crooned, nodding once to him, but then he looked to me. “But I’m selfish when it comes to Bella.”
I snorted, rolling my eyes at his use of our inside joke, but a gasp caught our attention.
You’re Bella!” Heidi snapped, pointing across the bar. “Jesus, Masen…you’re fucking a bartender?! Well, isn’t that fucking perfect for after rehab?” She grinned, which came out slightly evil, looking like she wanted to spill his secrets to everyone in the bar like she had already with James.
Several people shifted at one time, Edward one of them, but his brother and Jasper caught his shoulders. Hissed curses met my ears, not to mention another string of very creative and extremely humorous insults from Tanya and Kate.
“Cum-dumpster,” Tanya muttered, rolling her eyes to Kate. “Can you imagine where she’s been?” She shuddered dramatically while wearing a disgusted expression on her face.
“Emmett!” Rose’s voice was sharp, like a drill sergeant, and the man in question reached for Heidi, but I walked to where she was standing on the other side of the bar.
“Bella Swan,” I told her. “That’s Swan… As in Chainsaw Charlie Swan’s daughter.” I pointed toward the pictures and guitar hanging on the walls. “Make sure you spell it right when you call the media, mm’kay?” I asked her, raising an eyebrow at her.
“You can’t tell me—”
“No. No, I can’t tell you what to do. Nor do I want to,” I told her, shrugging a shoulder, but I caught movement along the side of the room where the extras were watching with wide-eyes, not to mention Heidi’s assistant moving in closer. “However, make sure you wait until after the show. The media is not allowed in my building. And neither is the cell phone your assistant is using…right now.”
Emmett’s gaze snapped up, and then his head spun to see the poor girl shaking her head as she tried to tuck her phone away quickly, but security moved even faster, snatching the phone away from her. The iPhone was handed over to Emmett, who scrolled through it, shaking his head and looking to Edward.
“All of it. It’s all on here… And guess who she was about to send it to, baby brother.”
Edward’s face was dark when he read the screen. “Laurent. That paps scumbag…” He turned to Rose. “Guess we know how he followed me to rehab, Rosie.”
Rose snorted but walked coolly up to Heidi. “Milton, if you’re through with her, I think we can let her go now. She’s fulfilled her contract for the video.”
“Security,” Milton stated firmly, but he turned to Heidi as the men gathered her assistant’s and Heidi’s belongings. “It gets erased or I sue you for breach of contract, maybe even copyright infringement. I’ll also make sure that you barely get print work in the future, Miss Summers. No more TV, no more films. Your reputation will be ruined because you can’t be trusted. And no, I don’t care what Aro says…”
That made her blanch, her face paling under his threat. She looked to Edward, but he was ignoring her. She turned to Milton, then Emmett, but she finally nodded.
Emmett’s fingers moved swiftly over the screen, and he handed it back to Heidi’s assistant. When Heidi and her people were led to the doors, Emmett made sure to escort them completely outside. The screams of the fans queued up at the door met our ears, and Edward shook his head, bracing his strong, inked arms on the bar top.
“Damn, did he really date her?” one of the extras asked without thinking, but her friend slapped a hand over her mouth to shut her up.
“Unfortunately,” Edward answered her anyway, glancing over to the poor thing and shooting her a grin, which made her blush into a fierce red and an embarrassed laugh. He pushed himself away from the bar, to address all the actresses. “Ladies, the rest of you are welcomed to stay for the show. Your bar tab is on me as a thank-you for your hard work and…tolerance.”
They all laughed but then cheered.
Edward faced Jasper. “We’ve got about an hour or so before showtime.”
“Guys,” I called, jerking my chin toward the back hall. “There’s a surprise for you in my office. Eat up, and…good luck.”
Edward’s brow wrinkled as a sexy smile curled up his beautiful mouth. “What’d you do, angel?”
“It’s my baby brother’s debut!” I scoffed, pointing to Mike. “You think I wouldn’t make his favorite?”
“Shut the fuck up! You made spaghetti?!” Mike gushed, rushing around the bar to push a chuckling Garrett out of the way to get to me. Mike hugged me, lifting me up as I laughed at him. “Thanks, B.”
“You’re gonna knock ’em dead, Mikey,” I whispered in his ear. “And…my dad would be very, very proud of you. You hear me?”
“I miss Charlie,” Mike whispered back.
“Me, too.” I wriggled to get down and then pushed him gently. “Now…go eat. All of you.”
I got hugs and kisses on the cheek from all the guys, including Emmett. The last to step up to me was Edward, who tugged me into the kitchen for a moment. His lips were searing and fierce, and the kiss was merely a taste of what was to come later, I was sure of it. I was a panting mess when he pulled away, pressing his forehead to mine.
“I wish you were up front,” he whispered.
“We both have a job to do, but my heart is with you up there.”
“Then I’ll make sure to let it shine front and center, angel.” His words were so very sweet, and his eyes were warm and loving. My Edward was back for just a moment, and just before he kissed my forehead, he said, “I plan on being very, very selfish, Miss Swan.”
Grinning, I shook my head, pushing him away, but my reward was his playful smirk and a wink before he disappeared down into my office where I’d set up a lot of food for them just that morning.
I walked back to the bar from the kitchen, nodding to Emmett that he could open the doors to let the people in, but I looked up to Garrett when he stopped me.
“You’re right, sweet girl.” He nodded a little as he smiled at me. “He’s not…what he seems.”
“Told you,” I sang, pushing him to his end of the bar. “C’mon. We’re about to get really fucking busy.”
The people started to file in, and since Milton was going to be filming the whole show, he made sure to put them where he wanted them. The servers were busy, the security stationed throughout my whole bar, and the place was noisy, due to sound-tests and tuning of guitars.
Those who were a member of the crew or friends were allowed to sit at the bar out of the camera’s eye. I was pretty sure I caught Mr. Milton chatting with the infamous Aro, but the creepy guy with the cheesy ponytail didn’t stay for very long. Tanya and Kate sat at my end, Garrett’s new girlfriend, Maggie, stayed with him, and Rose, Alice, and Marcus were being tended to by Tori. I smiled down to the other end at Maggie, shaking my head at how completely smitten my ex was with his girl. I was glad; I wanted him happy.
Tori, Garrett, and I stayed busy, but I was able to at least see the start of the show. Masen was back after kissing me stupid in the kitchen. He took the stage with an almost overbearing presence, but all the guys were focused. My poor brother looked green with nerves, but it only took a few songs into the concert before he started to relax, started to smile at his bandmates’ antics.
Since the video would be focused on the new music they’d just recorded, I didn’t know many of the songs, but they did play a few favorites, too. It was well received by the screaming, cheering, whistling audience, not to mention the whole crowd singing with Edward and Jasper.
The bar slowed a bit as the show wore on, and I knew they were just about done. I leaned against the end of the bar to watch them. Mike was doing an amazing job, and he seemed to be accepted by the fans so far, especially when the boys gave him a long solo. As a familiar song came to an end, Edward paced the stage like a lion, but it was Jasper who stepped up to the mic.
“Is everyone havin’ a good time?” he asked the crowd, grinning at the uproar that answered him back. “I’d like to thank Charlie’s Pub for having us, for putting up with a shit-ton of fuckery for this show.”
I chuckled, shaking my head, but Edward’s grin and sexy laugh through the speakers caught my attention. He shot a look toward the bar, but I was pretty sure he couldn’t see me due to the stage lights blasting his way.
“For those of you who don’t know, this place was once owned by Chainsaw Charlie Swan,” Edward continued for Jasper, pausing to wait for the fans to settle down. “He was, by far, one of the best blues guitarists in Seattle, if not the world. In honor of him, we’re gonna play one of his songs. This is for his daughter, who let us take over her whole world.”
Tori sidled up next to me, leaning against my side. “Oh, damn, B…”
“Yeah,” I said with a shaky voice, nodding her way.
I’d known about the song, heard bits and pieces of them practicing it, but truly hearing it at a professional level was…heart-stopping.
Jasper’s guitar cried out the first few bluesy notes, but it was Edward who pressed his lips to the mic like the kisses I wanted everywhere. My dad had written the song about me, though it had been altered to fit a love song between a couple for popularity’s sake. It didn’t matter to me; I knew what it meant.
However, it took on a completely different meaning with Edward’s beautiful voice crooning the words. He had just enough soul, just enough rasp to bring it to life, but I couldn’t tear my eyes from his face, which seemed to be seeking me out, despite the bright lights. He meant every damn word he was singing…to me.
It was all I could do to stay rooted to my post behind the bar, to stay focused on my job. I wanted to rush the stage in a groupie sort of way, but I couldn’t, not that Edward would’ve stopped me. But they weren’t finished with the show, nor would my display be something the entire bar full of people needed to see. Edward wasn’t the only one who was going to get really, really selfish after this concert was finished.
The song came to a close, and I smiled at Tori, who reached up to wipe away tears that had slipped down my cheeks.
“Charlie would’ve loved that,” she whispered. “And he’d love Masen.”
Nodding and sniffling a little, I let out a cleansing breath. “Tell me about it.”
Her smile was big and sweet, but she took my shoulders. “Promise me…you wrap that man up and hold on tight. He’s so fucking good for you.”
A heavy, warm hand landed on my shoulder, and I glanced up to Garrett. “Go, Bella. We’ve got cleanup. They’re on their last song anyway. Besides, the extra servers have started in the kitchen already.”
“’Kay.” I smiled thankfully at him and stepped through the kitchen doors and into the hallway. I passed by my office and made my way to the side of the stage, where Emmett stood guard.
He shot me a grin. “Bella,” he greeted, pulling me forward to stand in front of him so I had the absolute best fucking seat in the house. “When they’re done, I’m going to take them into your office until the crowd clears. Okay?”
Nodding that I’d heard him, I leaned between the curtain and the wall to watch the boys play their final song. It was their biggest hit, the finale. My brother was a sweaty mess, but so were the rest of them. Edward played guitar with Jasper, sometimes singing into the same microphone. His strong back flexed with every note played, and I couldn’t stop from taking in every inch of him from this fantastic view. A long black-and-white bandanna was tucked haphazardly into his back pocket for him to use to wipe sweat off his face and hands. His ass was defying gravity in the black, worn-out jeans he was sporting. His long, talented fingers flew over the strings, making heavy, sexy notes. His happy, free grin was the most alluring. He’d walk to Jasper, to Jake, then to Alec and Mike as they dragged out the song, simply for the crowd.
I fought my groan when Edward realized where I was. Fuck… His face turned deadly, heated, and absolutely ravenous when he sang toward the side of the stage instead of out toward the crowd. A slow, knowing smile curled up his lips, which made Emmett laugh.
“Okay, so maybe I should just…shove you two out the back to his place.”
We weren’t going to make it to his place. I knew that much. I felt his gaze all over me as if it were his hands. I heard Emmett on the radio in his ear, and he called Tony for the limo to be brought to the back door of the bar. The boys were going to leave straight out the back, and I smirked at that knowledge, simply because the change of plans meant my office would be empty.
Behind me, the crew prepared to break down the stage and pack up. Marcus stood in the background with a mellow look on his face as he watched the boys take their bows and reach out to touch grasping hands. Even Tanya, Kate, and Alice were busy packing up things. It seemed there was a specific routine they followed after a show.
I barely caught a glimpse of the crowd before the curtains slid closed. However, I did have to be mindful of the cameras that were wandering around, so when Edward set his guitar into the hands of one of the crew, only to face me, I backed up a little. The intensity was rolling off him in waves.
Edward’s gaze barely broke from mine when Milton popped up to shake the boys’ hands. There was new respect for the man, most likely stemming from how he’d handled Heidi. Though, that last thought made me frown a little, and I shoved the thought of her self-centered ways out of my head.
“Baby bro,” Emmett called, pausing to listen to the earpiece in his ear. “Guys, the limo is right out back. Edward, give me a second, and I’ll guide you up to—”
“I’ll be fine,” Edward rasped, taking a bottle of water from a table that had been set up backstage. He guzzled the whole thing, reaching for another one, only to down about half of it before coming up for air.
“I’m good, Emmett,” Edward reiterated, nodding before grabbing for the bandanna in his back pocket and wiping his face. “You’ve roped off the alley, and the crowd outside will be focused on the limo. No sweat.” He gave him a lopsided smile, but his hand reached for mine as Emmett nodded before guiding the boys through the back hall.
Despite how badly my body was humming for Edward, I stopped Mike, grinning up at him. “Don’t party too hard, Mikey,” I told him, and Edward snorted into a laugh.
“I promise, B,” my brother replied, giving me a kiss on the cheek. “Thank you…for this.”
I patted the side of his face. “You did awesome! And I think your girl is here…”
Mike grinned, nodding a little. “Yeah, I gave Lauren some tickets. She was like the second table back.”
“Then off you go, rock star.” I laughed, pushing him into Emmett’s hands so that he could be guided out behind the rest of the band.
Edward’s hand was still in mine, and I pushed open my office, pulling him in behind me. Though, he closed it softly, clicking the deadbolt home. Despite the noise of the crowd leaving, the bar being cleaned up, and the crew breaking down the stage, the snick of the lock was loud in my ears…or maybe it was in my head. Maybe it was heat rolling off the man standing behind me that had my hair standing up on the back of my neck and everything around me magnified – sounds, smells, and colors. All of it was enhanced to the point that I could hear my breathing coming out in shallow pants.
I needed to tell Edward something, but I wasn’t sure I could get the words out, especially when I turned to face him. The look on his face was so damned sexy, so heated, almost hungry, and it was all I could do to force myself to back away to lean against my desk.
A slight whimper left me at his voice, even though we’d spoken at the same time.
“Baby, you gotta stop looking at me like that for a second,” I told him with a chuckle, holding up a hand. “I just… I need to tell you…”
He grinned salaciously, shaking his head and dragging his tongue slowly and torturously along his bottom lip. “I can’t stop, Bella, so whatever it is…hurry.
“My dad’s song,” I rushed out, which brought him up short as he slowly stepped my way. “Thank you.”
Masen left the room so fast, only to be instantly replaced with my Edward – my sweet, unsure Edward. “Yeah? It was okay?”
Tears welled up in my eyes at the memory as I nodded vehemently. “Oh, God… It was…beautiful.”
His smile was slow, curling half of his pretty lips up on his face. “Thank you, Bella…for letting us use it.” He reached for my face, his hand slipping into my hair, but his thumb caught the tears that escaped. “I meant it…every fucking word.” The tone in his voice was slow, deep, and restrained, and my breathing picked up.
Suddenly, I realized it was adrenaline that was feeding this side of him. “Are you like this after every show?” I asked, wanting to know…yet not, because if he was this intense after performing, then letting him leave on tour would be absolutely impossible.
A grin flashed across his face. “Yeah, but…never like this. It’s you… Just seeing you watching backstage… I can’t explain it.”
I smirked up at him as he stepped closer and closer, pressing me into my desk. He was heat and sweat and sex practically throbbing in front of me.
“So…you don’t attack the first innocent girl once off stage?”
I flinched at his harsh laugh that almost sounded like a growl. “Oh, hell…fuck no!” He narrowed his eyes on me. “No, baby. I don’t. I am, however, about to attack my girlfriend, so…” He raised an eyebrow at me in such an alluring way that my hands gripped his T-shirt at his waist in order to pull him closer…or steady my weak knees. I wasn’t sure which. “I’m pretty damn sure she made me a promise…”
In spite of all the electricity that was buzzing around us, the giggle I let loose only caused his grin to look even deadlier.
His lips hovered so close to mine that I could feel their heat, feel his steady breathing push out softly across my face. He still smelled like the honey from the tea he’d had before the show. Instead of closing that minute distance, he detoured to my cheek, his lips and breath searing a trail to my ear.
“My girl promised I could be selfish…” He swirled his tongue lightly just beneath my ear.
“She did,” I readily agreed, and it came out sounding weak. “She may be a little selfish, too.”
The chuckle against my skin was so damned sexy that my hand slipped up his chest and into his hair while the other gripped the back of his T-shirt.
“Edward…” I groaned, and he pulled from my neck, leaving the skin damp with his kisses. “Please…I can’t take the teasing.”
Long fingers threaded into my hair, tugging my lips to his. There was no preamble, no soft or sweet lips, but pure hunger and want. His tongue was just as sweet as his breath from the honey he’d had earlier, and I relished it, claimed it, loved it.
Something crashed in the hallway, making me jump, but Edward never even flinched. His hands slipped down, gripping my ass and setting me roughly on the top of my desk.
“Ignore it, angel.”
Once I’d nodded, we were a flurry of gripping hands and rough kisses. It seemed clothes couldn’t disappear quickly enough. I pushed the vest off him as he grabbed for my shirt. Everything started to hit the floor or the chairs behind him. Edward yanked off my sneakers, and I lifted up for him to pull my jeans and underwear down in one swift tug. He stood shirtless before me. I grabbed for his belt, and he laughed when I practically pulled him off balance to undo it and then unzip his jeans. Before I shoved them down over his ass, I reached for his pocket. He carried a condom all the time now. I stopped for a moment, and his face fell as I swallowed nervously.
“Angel? Are you…”
I tossed the condom behind me onto the desk. “I want you…just you.”
“Fuck…” he hissed, squeezing his eyes closed. We both knew we were clean. Edward had been tested in rehab, and I was on the shot. We’d had the conversation, but we’d used protection out of habit. “I love you…” he breathed, his hands slamming down onto the desk when I reached out to shove his jeans down just a bit more, repeating the love back to him.
He was heavy, warm, and hard in my hand as I worked up and down his shaft. I was pulled forward to the edge of the desk as his own fingers started to work.
“I want you so wet when I really feel you for the first time, angel,” he whispered, pressing his forehead to mine, but his eyes betrayed him. He looked down between us as we continued to touch, to play, to tease.
“Too late.”
A grin quirked up his face, but his eyes kept glancing between us. “No shit, baby. I see that. What made you so wet, Bella?”
“Watching you,” I answered honestly, nipping at his lips. I tasted and nuzzled to get him to meet my eyes. “Enough…please, Edward. Just…fuck me.”
If I thought his gaze was heated before, nothing prepared me for his reaction. He knocked my hands away from his cock and reached for my knees, spreading me wide open. He lined up at my entrance and then sank into me swiftly, deeply. My head fell back as the feeling of completion washed over me.
“Jesus Christ,” he grunted through gritted teeth. His fingers dug into my ass as he steadied himself. Papers and files fell to the floor as he started an almost brutal rhythm, bending me back over my desktop. “God, you feel so…fucking good…” He pressed a hand to my shoulder, easing me back so that my shoulders met the cool wood. “I wanna watch every inch of you get fucked on this desk, Bella.”
One of his hands held my thigh while the other teased my nipple piercings. My gasps of pleasure, of begging for more, couldn’t be stopped, and I honestly didn’t care if we were heard. He felt amazing, and despite how deeply he was fucking me, his touch was reverent and so loving that my orgasm was barreling down on me quicker than I’d expected.
“I know you are, angel…” He bent over me, dragging tongue and lips across my now sweaty skin, finally toying with my hard nipples. He swirled his tongue around both peaks, grinning when my body arched up for more and my heels dug into his ass. “So close, so close…” he purred against my lips. “What will it take to send you over, baby?”
He braced a hand by my head while his other hand slipped between us. His teeth raked across one of my piercings at the same time his talented fingers – the same callused fingers that had played the guitar only minutes ago – found my swollen, needy clit.
He played me like he played music, commanding me, owning me. He drew it out, swiveling his hips in order to hit the spot deep inside me that caused every inch of me to unravel. I shattered beneath him, my breathing stopping momentarily as everything exploded. I saw stars as I gripped onto his hair, his bicep, anything I could grasp. He gathered me into his arms and into a sitting position as he rode out my spasms.
Wrapping my arms around his neck and dragging teeth and lips up his throat, I whispered, “I love you, Edward…”
“I…I…” He faltered, grunting and panting. “So fucking much… I…”
I kissed the shit out of him as I felt his thrusts start to lose rhythm. My fingers made purchase on his ass and in his hair as I met him push for push. It only took a few more before he was buried as deep as he could go, gripping my hair as he finally exploded.
“Fuck…” he breathed, his forehead falling to mine and then to my shoulder. His strong arms wound all the way around me as he tried to catch his breath. Hugging him close with my arms and legs, I kept him inside me as long as I could.
“I’m never… I’ve… Sweet fuck, Bella…”
Grinning, I turned to drop a kiss to his cheek. “Amen.”
He huffed a breathless laugh, pulling back just to kiss my lips sweetly. “My bed or yours, angel?”
I raised an eyebrow. “Mine is closer.”
He laughed, nodding a little. “Indeed, and that’s a good thing. I’m still feeling selfish.”
I giggled, kissing his lips before we separated and quickly got dressed in order to head to my apartment…or his. I didn’t care. We’d survived the night, the filming, and we’d survived Heidi. Now…we had to survive his leaving soon. I wasn’t ready, but I didn’t have a choice. However, for now, I’d take what I could get.


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